The Bolivian parliament is now considering naming a provisional head of state after failing to choose a new President for the country in six ballots.
The Bolivian parliament is now considering naming a provisional head of state after failing to choose a new President for the country in six ballots. Elections at the beginning of July proved inconclusive and it as left to the one hundred and forty-four seat Congress to choose between Mr. Victor Paz Estenssoro of the centrist National Revolutionary Movement (MNR). Mr. Hernan Siles Suazo of the left-wing Popular Democratic Unity (UDP), and General Hugo Banzer of the right-wing National Democratic Alliance (ADN). General Banzer dropped out of the running after finishing last in the first ballot, but hopes that this might lead to a ???ecisive result were dashed when he ordered his twenty-one supporters to cast blank votes in subsequent ballots. The UDP and Bolivia's main trade union, the Central Labour Organisation (COB) have branded July's elections as a fraud and the union called a twenty-four hour general strike on Thursday (2 August), when one person was killed and about twenty were injured in clashes with the police.
SYNOPSIS: Set at the base of the snowcapped peaks of the Cordillera Real, La Paz is the world's highest capital. The strike paralysed industry throughout the city and most shops were closed as workers heeded the union's call to stay at home.
COB organised the strike to put pressure on the newly elected Congress to name Mr. Siles Suazo as the country's new President. Although the polled slightly more votes than his MNR rival, Mr. Siles Suazo won only forty-six parliamentary seats compared with Mr. Estenssoro's sixty three. UDP leaders say the alleged vote fraud deprived their party of at least twelve seats, seriously affecting their candidate's ??? of being elected President by Congress.
Some bus drivers who tried to ignore the strike call were forced off the streets by roadblocks and strikers throwing stones. Despite the strike the government ordered public servants to work as usual, but most could not get transport to their offices. During the day there were isolated incidents of violence as left-wing students joined strikers on the picket lines. COB claims the strike was a success in eight of the country's nine provinces.
Through of riot police were put on stand-by to deal with any major trouble and later in the day they removed roadblocks set up by the strikers. The casualties came after nightfall when according to police rioters set fire to three police vehicles, and then tried to loot shops in the northern part of the city.
There was also trouble outside Congress where members were trying to find a solution to the Presidential deadlock. Police eventually had to use teargas to break up rival demonstrations by supporters of the UDP and MNR, and there were scuffles in the streets near the parliament building.
Bolivia's military government headed by General David Padilla, which promised to hand over to the new President on Monday, (6 August) has said it will remain in power until Congress chooses a President. But in a country which has had some two hundred coups since independence from Spain in 1825, there are now fears that unless the political stalemate ends soon, Bolivia's brief taste of democracy will end in another military coup.